Autism a Challenge for Coachella Family


Photo: HEPINGTING via Flickr
Photo: HEPINGTING via Flickr


KARLA MARTINEZ/Coachella Uninc


It was not too long ago that I had no idea what the word “autism” meant. Unfortunately, now I know the definition all too well.

A few years ago, my mother worked with kids with disorders such as anger management, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She was very observant of their behavior because she wanted to better understand them.

Then about two years ago, my mother noticed that my three-year old cousin, Antonio, was different from the rest of the kids in the family. Antonio couldn’t speak, not even his own name, or respond to anything we said to him. He was uncomfortable in crowded places and was bothered by loud noises. He had many of the same traits as the ASD children she had tutored.

According to Clearing the Fog About Autism, autism is a range of complex neurodevelpment disorders. The symptoms include failing to respond to their names, avoiding eye contact, repetitive movemnts, and becoming indifferent to social engagement.

The challenges of having an autistic child aren’t easy; my aunt has a hard time giving Antonio the attention he requires because she also cares for her two other kids. It is difficult for her to take Antonio anywhere new because he panics and throws tantrums.

Kids with autism will often hurt themselves. This is the case for Antonio; he bites his own hand when he gets nervous or anxious. My aunt has to check on him constantly to make sure he isn’t harming himself or others.

Finding help for Antonio has been the toughest hurdle, especially because my aunt and uncle are undocumented. They don’t meet the requirements to apply for special classes or help from the state. And my aunt is unable to work because she needs to be by Antonio’s side at all times for the sake of his safety.

Antonio, who is now 5, attends kindergarten at John Kelley Elementary in Thermal everyday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. but my aunt noticed it hasn’t helped him much. The school promised speech lessons but neither Antonio nor his classmates have received them. My aunt was disappointed. She was hoping that her son would be able to speak more.

Antonio’s diagnosis as mildly autistic has been hard on the whole family. My aunt and uncle are frustrated because they feel there is no hope for Antonio.

I believe they’re wrong. CNN did a report on Dan Selec. He founded nonPareil Institute, which provides technical training, employment and housing those who have been diagnosed with ASD. Many of autistic students he has trained have gone on to work for his organization.

Like Selec, whose autistic son inspired his organization, I believe there is a future for my cousin and everyone else on the autism spectrum.

Autism is just like any other disorder and should be treated; and, most importantly, we must recognize that there is hope for those afflicted.


Resources for ASD families:

Coachella Valley Autism Society of America

Autism Speaks

Clearing the Fog About Autism



4 thoughts on “Autism a Challenge for Coachella Family

  • Pingback: Autism a Challenge for Coachella Family

  • Pingback: Autism a challenge for Coachella family | Youth Media for Building Healthy Communities

  • July 19, 2013 at 4:25 am

    I sympathize with you and your family. My eldest is on the asd she is 20yrs old now. The schooling in Australia needs to change as well, as there are more and more children being diagnosed with asd. The waiting period here where I live is 6months for speech services unless you go privately, even then there is a waiting period. I work as a therapy assistant in the health dept for our government. We are facing cut back $ both in education and health. Which leaves our teachers over worked and under paid. This makes me sad, and angry.

  • November 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Don’t give up. If it is anything like Australia, as the parent I have had to be persistent and keep following up. I have set routines in place at home (regularity helps a lot). Show the schools that strict routines are in place at home, and suggest what might work in school. Turn up to every appointment they arrange for you. Schedule appointments with teachers regularity, that way you make them accountable and they know your family is putting in the time and effort also. My ASD child is now nearing the end of high school and functions well, he is looking towards his future with hopes of an acting career. One of the things I have experienced is that many mainstream teachers have little to no practical training of ASD’s and are often being advised by visiting teachers who have never worked in classrooms. Though things are slowly improving so be a strong family set a strong foundation and the chance of success will definately out weigh the challenges that arrive.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *